I love lists. You love lists. We all love lists. Maybe we all just love to hate lists. Well, here’s another one to dissect: Retro-Active’s Top 10 Bosses!
In case some of you out there take this more seriously than you should, let me preface this with a few things:
1) I fully admit that this list skews retro. This list is absolutely biased according to what I’m into. So if you’re unhappy that I didn’t represent BioShock or Dead Space or whatever, I guess I don’t know what else to tell you. Go read IGN.
2) You will not find Sephiroth or Psycho Mantis or Bowser here. I don’t care how great you think Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, and Super Mario Bros. are; none of those franchises need any more stroking from the internet.
3) This is opinion and opinion only.
So by “Top Bosses,” I guess I really mean “Subjective Favorite Bosses”. I’m not saying that these are necessarily the biggest, baddest, rootin’ tootin’est bosses of all time (though some might be in the running), but they are ones I’ve really enjoyed -or ones that have really pissed me off- over the years. So with that out of the way, let’s get on with it!
10. Rex (3D Monster Maze, Timex/Sinclair 1000)
Okay, so technically he’s not really a “boss” in the conventional sense of the word. And thanks to the minimal graphical abilities of the Timex/Sinclair 1000, he’s actually a little silly-looking. But he’s big, he’s hungry, you’re stuck in a maze with him, you have no defense against him, and the phrase “Rex has seen you” made you seriously reconsider just how sick of Flight Simulator and Frogger you were after all. (You ZX81 fans in the U.K. and Canada know what I’m talking about.)
9. Goro (Mortal Kombat, Arcade)
Many would argue that MKII’s Kintaro was a greater boss character than Goro was. And they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. But before MKII rolled around, Goro was larger than life. In fact, he still is, in the context of the original Mortal Kombat. Scorpion and Kano suddenly didn’t seem that badass standing before a ‘roided-out four-armed giant. If he got even one of those hands on you, it was all over.
8. Sack Head (Splatterhouse, Arcade/TurboGrafx-16)
The Spatterhouse series had enough epically strange, disgusting, creepy-looking, disturbing, and tough boss characters to fill this list all by themselves. But in my estimation, none said “you’re gonna die” in clearer tones than this guy. Resembling what I can only imagine to be a mishmashing of Abobo from Double Dragon, Jason’s mother from Friday the 13th, and Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Sack Head’s influence could still be felt over a decade later in games like Resident Evil 4.
(Speaking of Jason, Rick looks awfully familiar…)
7. Anton Girdeux (Syphon Filter, PlayStation)
Flamethrowers are awesome. Most of the time. That time in the monument after you disarmed the four viral bombs in Lincoln Memorial Park? Not one of those times. This fire-flinging Frenchman would barbecue up some Gabe Flambée faster than you could say “je n’aime pas!” Feeling so much as a single BTU from Girdeux’s flames meant instant death. There were a lot of instant deaths.
6. Mr. X (Resident Evil 2, PlayStation), Nemesis (Resident Evil 3, PlayStation)
These guys are lumped together because, for one thing, I love the Resident Evil games (the first four, anyway, plus Code: Veronica), but mainly because they’re really more or less the same thing and serve the same functions in their respective games. Which in no way trivializes them, I should add. They followed you through the entire game, periodically popping up when you least suspected it to scare the bejeezus out of you, before appearing at the end of the game -in grossly mutated forms (redundant much?)- for a final showdown in which they couldn’t be defeated with conventional weapons.
One of the great things about Mr. X in particular was that, in a game where most of your enemies wanted little more than to eat you, his preferred method of ending your game was beating your ass into stew with his fists.
Nemesis, however, was not above using heavy ordnance to ruin your day.
5. Hitler (Wolfenstein 3D, PC)
Wolfenstein 3D took no shortage of liberties in the historical accuracy department, and its portrayal of Adolf Hitler was no exception. The image of Hitler stomping around in some kind of tank-suit contraption armed with enough miniguns to outfit a squadron of Cheyenne helicopters is deliciously absurd (even more absurd than Hitler The Warlock). Any manic laughter resulting from said absurdity quickly came to an end when you saw what Der Führer could do with all that hardware, however.
Being able to peel off his goofy armor with your own minigun before literally melting his Nazi ass with it was awfully satisfying, though.
4. Akuma (Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Arcade/3DO)
Virtually every other “Top Bosses” list I’ve seen includes Street Fighter II’s M. Bison. I’m not sure I understand why, but I’m guessing it’s because they forgot about Akuma, Super Street Fighter II Turbo‘s elusive “hidden” boss. As badass as Bison is supposed to be (I don’t see it myself), Akuma showed up out of nowhere and blew through him like he wasn’t even there. And then he did the same to you. For as long as your quarters and/or patience held out.
3. Technodrome (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, NES)
If you can make it this far in the game, congratulations. Few things inspired more dread in an NES game than suddenly finding yourself in a cavernous and ominously empty room, hearing the TMNT boss music come on (say what you will about this game, but it has some of the best music of the 8-bit era), and seeing the Technodrome tank’s giant electricity-spewing prong slowly rolling up on you. And between zapping you, shooting you, running you over, and swarming you with Foot Soldiers (who flung hailstorms of shuriken at you), the Technodrome didn’t f@#$ around. If you didn’t have at least three healthy turtles (one of them being Donatello), you needed Kiais. If you didn’t have any, you were screwed.
Of course, if you got inside the Technodrome, you were screwed anyway.
2. William Birkin (Resident Evil 2, PlayStation)
This guy is a piece of work. William Birkin is a recurring boss who reappeared at various stages of his ongoing mutation, each more fearsome than the last. The last two mutations almost bordered on ridiculous; the poor guy eventually turned into some kind of enormous, eyeball-covered bulldog with the face of a wood-chipper, and later into a gigantic tentacled blob with the face of a razor-fanged sphincter. Regardless of the form (?) he took, Birkin was a force to be feared. (Except for his early pipe-swinging form; he was kind of a wuss. But those other ones? You’d better be packing.)
1. Cyberdemon (Doom, PC)
When you got to the last level in The Shores of Hell, the instant you saw those dead Barons of Hell hanging on the walls, and that creepy semitone music started playing, that’s when you conveniently starting thinking about having better things to do. Even if you made it through the whole game without cheating up to this point, you were now overwhelmingly tempted to say “screw it” and plug in IDDQD. And when you finally worked up the courage to face the music you knew was waiting for you, you found a 20-foot cyborg minotaur from hell, with a missile launcher for an arm and a disposition as sunny as the dark side of the moon.
As if that weren’t hardcore enough, the good folks at id Software -the creators of Doom– saw fit to stick this tough customer all over the place in Thy Flesh Consumed, Doom II, and Final Doom like he wasn’t that big a deal. And that’s not even getting into fan-made custom WADs like Alien Vendetta and Hell Revealed, where Cyberdemons are only marginally less common than the swarms of lowly Imps and Former Humans. Welcome to hell, indeed…hope you packed your BFG 9000!
(c) 2012 Jeffery Koss